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24 09 2009

See George Monbiot’s blog for the latest on his feud with Ian Plimer and animosity towards The Spectator magazine.

Despite contributing to increasing emission levels, population growth will not be on the agenda of major climate change summits this year. An interesting piece in the Ecologist considers this – ‘the topic politicians won’t discuss.’

According to a report by the International Energy Agency carbon dioxide emissions will fall by 2.6% in 2009 – the largest in 40 years. Declining industrial output during the recession and greater governmental intervention across the world have made such figures possible. See New Scientist blog for summary.

Climate change: An ‘inequality of responsibility’?

22 09 2009

In an apparent rebuttal to attempts made by the Obama administration to ensure the primacy of domestic rather than international law in any forthcoming treaty over greenhouse gas reductions, emissions and carbon credits, Vandana Shiva wrote in the NewStatesman:

In a globalised economy, addressing pollution by setting emissions levels for each country is inappropriate for two reasons. First, not all the citizens of a country contribute to pollution. As a result of China becoming the world’s factory, its CO2 emissions outstrip those of the US, putting it in first place worldwide. In 2006, China produced 6.1 billion tonnes of CO2; the US produced 5.75 billion tonnes. But in the US, emissions were 19 tonnes of CO2 per capita, compared with 4.6 tonnes in China. And much of China’s CO2 could be counted as US emissions, because China is producing goods for US companies that America will consume. Wal-Mart, for example, procures most of what it sells from China.

In relation to the UK, Shiva highlights the fact that:

.. while only 2.13 per cent of the world’s emissions emanate from the UK’s domestic economy, CO2 is created on the UK’s behalf in China, India, Africa and elsewhere. The global carbon footprint of UK companies is not known, but estimates suggest that emissions associated with worldwide consumption of the top 100 UK products accounts for between 12 and 15 per cent of the world total.

According to Shiva, attempts to ‘offset’ the impact of climate change have so far penalised the poorest countries. In place of light touch regulation, she urges governments and the UN to impose carbon tax on corporations, both for production – wherever their facilities are located – and for transport, which the Kyoto Protocol does not account for.

In the same issue of the NewStatesman, political correspondent James Macintyre also advocates an urgent commitment from rich countries to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2020 to prevent a global warming increase of 2° or more. He asserts there being a clear ‘inequality of responsibility’ for carbon emissions across the world.

The spectre of natural disaster looms largest over poor countries. The total number of floods, cyclones and storms has quadrupled in the past two decades. Over the same period, the number of people affected by disasters has increased from roughly 174 million a year to more than 250 million on average. Environmental threat is acute in countries such as Bangladesh, where 119 million of the population subsist on less than $2 a day. For them and millions of others, talk of climate change is not a fad or fashion, a label to help “modernise” a political party, or the subject of dinner-party self-justification; it is literally a matter of life and death. For their sake, long-standing green campaigners and late-coming progressive converts alike must pray for a deal in December.

US-EU rift?

15 09 2009

Key differences have emerged between the US and Europe just months before the Copenhagen conference. According to the Guardian, Europe’s push to retain the structures and systems made under the Kyoto protocol has been met with resistance from the US. The Obama administration is seeking to reassert the rights of national states to set their own carbon reduction targets. At present, greenhouse gas reductions are subject to an international system that regulates emissions and carbon credits.

At the same time as this emerging trans-Atlantic rift, the World Bank is urging an ‘equitable deal’ for the world’s poorest nations to be reached at Copenhagen. The argument that it is the ‘historic duty’ of industrialised nations to shoulder the responsibility for global climate change is now firmly in the mainstream.